Showing posts from March, 2009

The Shack... "learning to live loved"

The Shack… theological feature:God’s relationship with us is a friendship, a dialogue, and a journey in which we “learn to live loved” (175).

Comments: What a well-turned phrase -- "learn to live loved"! I think these are the most quotable words in the book.

I don’t know anything more important and freeing than learning to live loved by God. This one point is worth sitting and meditating on in our personal, quiet times with God. We often think of the Christian life as a process of learning to love God... and it is. However, it is just as much a process of learning to receive God's love. For many of us, receiving love from God is more difficult than giving love to him. Our sense of guilt gets in the way. Overcoming guilt and shame, and allowing God to transform us with his love, is life's greatest journey.

Postmodern connections: Again, we see God presented as close, intimate, and eager to invest himself in our world and life. The Scriptures bear witness to this.

One word…

Don't separate pets from God and growing in love

With the passing yesterday of our 11-year-old cat Mittens, I offer this thought. Farm animals live with humans, but they exist for the purpose of performing work or becoming food. Pets exist for no other reason than to love and be loved by the people they live with. In this way, pets become an important part of the life of love each of us is called into by God.

Will pets be in heaven? Someone told me that C. S. Lewis has argued that maybe they will. I say that if pets are indeed part of our life of love, the same love that is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5), then maybe so. Who knows? Perhaps God will bring our pets with us into the new creation. If we can sanctify our children just by providing a household for them, then maybe we can sanctify our pets too (1 Cor 7:14). (This is pure conjecture. Don't get too wound up over these musings.)

But even if not, having a pet can open up important spiritual dimensions in our lives. My point? Don't separate pets f…

The Shack... Union with God

The Shack… theological feature:God will live within us so that we see with his eyes, hear with his ears, touch with his hands, and think like he does. However, he will never force that union on us. If we want to go it alone, he will allow us to (149).

Comments: I think this is a very nice description of spiritual formation. It’s an echo of Paul’s teachings that we have the mind of Christ and that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. God takes up residence and lives within us, and he expresses himself through us. However, as Young correctly points out, God never forces himself on us.

I have met many Christians who want and expect God to do just this. They are wondering when God will take over, and he is waiting for them to “work out their salvation” with desire and initiative. This is a stalemate that can lead to a lot of lost time. The point is that you have to invest yourself 100% into becoming one with God. As Paul teaches, you have to develop the mentality of a world class athlete – yo…

The Shack... Sin as its own punishment?

The Shack… Theological feature:God doesn’t need to punish people for their sins. Sin is its own punishment (120).

Comments: Young is working to overturn the stereotype of God as vengeful and judgmental, just waiting to hammer us rotten sinners for our wrongdoing. Setting aside Young’s theology for a moment, let’s applaud his attempt to do away with this damaging picture of God. However, to limit God to “natural consequences” is shortsighted and incomplete.

Remember the last two posts about God being “forgiving but not indulgent”, backed up by references to Ex 34 and Ps 103? That is the more complete picture of how God deals with sin. He does not sit passively by, allowing sin to be its own punishment. Well, no doubt he sometimes does that. But the Bible presents God as being active in dealing with sin. He is affected by it (he gets angry, saddened, etc.). He actively opposes it – either exercising judgment on people who aren’t in relationship with him or disciplining his own children. A…

Ps 103 continues the theme that God is "forgiving but not indulgent"

Yesterday I referenced Ex 34 to show that God is "forgiving but not indulgent" (as Lauren put it so well). Today I would like to quote a portion of Ps 103, which apparently draws on Ex 34. It is easy to see the similarities.

Here is Ps 103:6-14...

6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

Is God forgiving? Absolutely. He is com…

My daughter's description of God as "forgiving but not indulgent"

I am writing this post partly to brag on my kid, but also because what she said is truly thought provoking. Lauren is 16 now, and this is the first time she has attended one of my Sunday school classes. The class is on "Five Core Truths", or five core areas of Christian theology we all need to be familiar with - Bible, Jesus, God, salvation, and heaven. There are other important areas in theology, but I had a five-week window, so I made it five core truths instead of a different number.

This past weekend we were talking about God's character, and Lauren came out with a comment that is a keeper -- God is "forgiving but not indulgent." This makes me think of how God describes himself to Moses in Ex 34...

5 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 mai…

The Shack... Jesus dependended on the Spirit and the Father

The Schack… Theological feature:Jesus never drew on his divine nature to do anything. He lived out of his dependence on the Father (99-100).

Comments: There are solid New Testament scholars who hold this position (Gerald Hawthorne is one). However, I agree with Klaus Issler that Jesus did occasionally do things by virtue of his own divine status (for instance, he forgave sins).

Contrary to popular stereotypes, the Jesus of the Gospels did not walk around flexing his divine muscle. Luke makes it a point to teach us that Jesus ministered because “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (4:19). In Matthew, Jesus says that he casts out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit (12:28). These and other verses present a picture of Jesus as the ultimate human being, dependent on the Father and the Spirit, and doing nothing of his own accord. This life of absolute dependence and Spirit-fullness is what human life is all about. Luke painstakingly points to Jesus as our role model in Spirit-dependence.


The Shack... Jesus' cry on the cross

The Shack... Theological Feature:The Father did not separate from Jesus when he was on the cross.

On p. 96, Papa explains to Mack that when Jesus was on the cross and cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," that did not mean the Father had left the Son. God the Father never left Jesus when he was dying on the cross. Papa states that even though Jesus felt that he had been abandoned, he had not.

Comments: The Scriptures present Jesus as being in deep agony, both at Gethsemane and Golgotha. His agony was not only physical but also emotional and spiritual. How many of us have travailed so deeply that we have broken blood vessels in our facial skin? Jesus felt the trauma of the cross more deeply than we can imagine.

The question is: What about Jesus’ cry on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” What does that mean? Many Christians put Jesus on such a different plane of existence that he uttered those words just to quote Psalm 22, not because he reall…

The Shack... God the Father as a black woman

The Shack... Theological Feature:God the Father appears as a large black woman.

How did you feel about this very important element of the story? Young states his rationale for it on p. 93. God transcends maleness and femaleness, and he can appear in any form he chooses. So what if he chooses to appear as a woman, or even a minority woman? Can he not do that? Of course he can. Besides, Papa states in the book that the image of God as an old man who looks like Gandalf is a stereotype. He explains, “And this weekend is not about reinforcing your religious stereotypes.”

Comments: True enough. God created us male and female. God has revealed himself as a Father figure, but he is not limited to maleness. In fact, the Bible does use motherly images to refer to God (Deut 32:18; Ps 131:2; Isa 42:14; Isa 66:13). Even so, the God of the Bible is consistently masculine. There is no way around this fact. God reveals himself in Scripture as Father, Husband, Shepherd, Warrior, etc. Maybe God was doing…